The Cat

Wynn Wolf Arbor

One should live in a house like a cat, finding repose on almost every surface. To the cat, the whole house is a shelter. Every table, every sofa, every chair, every bed, indeed every floor is an invitation to find some rest. Do we not find cats, again and again, in the most unusual and unexpected places? We find them there, lying and sleeping with a kind of lightness and peace as if they themselves had designed that space specifically for them. We find them there snugly in a ball, breathing softly to themselves and relaxing their claws.

Now, in this instance, they need them not. In this instance the whole world around them, usually a cat’s plaything and center of attention, ceases to exist almost, as if they, in their peaceful huddledness, transcended life and entered the realm of daydreaming. A human realm, not an animal one. Of which things do they dream? Do they dream of the mouse that eluded them in the existential battle for life and retreated back to its hole, its own shelter? Do they maybe dream of the fields in which they were kings and queens, unchallenged monarchs of old?

Truly there is something kingly about cats; a certain evolutionary dignity. How is it that they live content with beings displaying even greater hubris? Or maybe they just want to learn? How innocent, though, in their pursuit of this. How unburdened, how free. Whom do they see when they look at us? What do they feel when we talk to them?

Can it be that it is only instinct that drives them? They exhibit such humanness, they exhibit an animal soul. It is a purer soul, a more simple one, but it is a soul. What do they feel when we gently stroke their fur with our hands? Do they feel the same kind of love? How is it to live a cat’s life?

I said earlier that cats lie down to repose anywhere. Like a human, however, they have their favourite spots. Always these spots have a distinctly human element. It is the small opening under our beds that we so cherished as a child, dreaming of and building at the same time a warm and safe den ourselves. It is next to our spot on the sofa, as if we radiated a familiarity and comfort there even in our absence. It is in the bags we use for our shopping, the suitcases we use for travelling.

It is on our discarded clothes on the table, floor, chair or bed, as if they wanted to absorb the fragrances of our lives and thus come closer to our person. It is our smell that is home to them, our ``having lived’’ in something, on something, that is so dear to them. Maybe they want to feel the pain that was inflicted upon us, or the joy and happiness that was diffused through the clothes as we wore them. They are not all without us, and while we are gone they are emptier inside for the loss, seeking refuge, seeking a nest, seeking shelter from the rain in the touched and transformed things we left behind. We are their mothers and fathers to them, we are their family. This bond transcends species, it is therefore something inherent in life. It is a soulful longing for nearness, a longing for exchange of life, and what makes life what it is.

My cats cannot comprehend what I have written here, but I believe fully that they feel the same way. The cat hair on my clothes is their attempt at sharing this warmness, this closeness. And when the cat lies down close to me and purrs with all the excellence of beauty and reverberation, then I feel loved in the universe and want to share that love. Maybe in this simplicity we should look for love and give it back with all our heart. Maybe in this simplicity we have found the core of us and the dignified true expression of the animal, and of nature.